Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president and Union home minister Amit Shah on Thursday said that Nitish Kumar would be the chief ministerial candidate in Bihar and the alliance between his party and the Janata Dal (United) was “unbreakable”, putting to rest speculation of a rift between the allies over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, and a proposed all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Shah was addressing a rally at the Gharauna Pokhar ground in Vaishali district to drum up support for the new citizenship law.
With Bihar scheduled to go to the polls in October, Shah said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre, and Nitish Kumar will lead the alliance in the state.
“I want to end all rumours by declaring openly here that the next assembly elections in Bihar will be fought under the leadership of Nitish Kumar,” he said.
“Lalu Prasad (Rashtriya Janata Dal chief), who is in jail in corruption cases, may go on dreaming that our coalition will come apart. But he should know that the NDA has led Bihar out of his lantern age (an allusion to the RJD’s poll symbol) to the LED era...The country and the state shall progress under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, respectively,” PTI quoted Shah as saying.
Attacking the Opposition, especially the RJD and the Congress, Shah said it was the NDA, which led the state from “jungle raj” to “janta raj” (people’s rule) from 2005 to 2020.
Shah also attacked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, blaming them for the violence that took place in different parts of India in protests against CAA. “Opposition parties engineered anti-CAA riots, which forced the BJP to hold rallies across the country to apprise people of their nefarious designs,” Shah said.
The BJP president also accused Lalu Prasad and Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of misleading people on CAA. “I have come here to tell Muslim brothers to read the CAA. I have also come to tell Rahul baba (Rahul Gandhi) and Lalu Prasad Yadav to not mislead the people. Mamata Didi and Kejriwal ji, you too do not mislead the people. The CAA has received the best response in Bihar,” he said.
CAA grants citizenship rights to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who came to India on or before December 31, 2014. It was passed by Parliament on December 11. It has come under criticism from several quarters for linking citizenship with religion, and for not including Muslims.
The BJP president also announced that construction activity for the Ram temple at Ayodhya would begin in the next four months.
RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary said Shah’s assertion that chief minister Nitish Kumar would be the chief minister’s face of the NDA for the 2020 Bihar polls was on expected lines. “This was expected. The announcement by Shah batting for CM Nitish as NDA’s face for the top post reflects how the BJP has backtracked on its big plans to go alone in Bihar, realising it cannot win the polls independently. The BJP has conceded ground to the JD(U) and does not want to make new enemies after its poor show in Jharkhand and debacles in few other states,” Tiwary said.
According to Prabhat Prasad Ghosh, director , Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), Patna, and an avid political observer, the announcement of chief minister Nitish Kumar as NDA’s face for the 2020 assembly polls was on predictable lines as both parties have been in the alliance for long. “ The JD(U) and the BJP are in an alliance and this is a result of it . Both partners may have had some differences of opinion but there was no major confrontation as such,” he said.
Several central ministers, including Ravi Shankar Prasad, Giriraj Singh, Ashwini Kumar Chaubey, Nityanand Rai, state BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal, Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, state ministers Nand Kishore Yadav, Prem Kumar and Suresh Sharma; and MPs Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Janardan Singh Sigriwal, Veena Devi, RK Sinha, and CP Thakur were present at the rally.